diamond geezer

 Friday, January 06, 2012

As stations go, Kensington Olympia has some strangely timetabled trains. Seven District line departures each weekday - five ridiculously early, plus two outliers mid-evening. An Overground service interlaced with hourly trains to Milton Keynes. But that's nothing compared to the unlikely service that pulls out once each weekday morning on the way to nowhere useful. The 10:02 to Wandsworth Road. The parliamentary train that Southern has to run, but they'd rather nobody caught. I caught it, braved the lies, and lived to tell the tale.

Should you ever be standing on the southbound platform at Kensington Olympia just before ten o'clock in the morning, there are absolutely no clues whatsoever that a train is due. No 10:02 service is displayed on the departure board. There's an 09:56 to Clapham Junction, and a 10:11 to Clapham Junction, but nothing's indicated inbetween. They don't want you to board this train, so they don't announce its arrival.

At one minute past, as a four carriage green train appears in the distance, the display on the next train indicator changes. "Please stand clear. This train is not for public use" it reads. This is a lie. There's then an almost identical public announcement. "Please stand away from the train of platform 3. This train is not in use." This too is a lie, as it turns out. But they don't want you to board this train, so they pretend it isn't stopping.

At two minutes past, the train arrives. Destination "Wandsworth Road", according to the scrolling display on the front, which baffles a few potential passengers because they don't know where Wandsworth Road is. A guard steps from the door in carriage number three and emerges onto the platform in town crier mode. He booms out a list of stations, slightly too fast, which confuses those on the platform still further. A group of lost-looking foreign tourists ask if the train is going to their chosen destination and receive a somewhat patronising "What did I say?" response. The guard doesn't want you to board this train, that's obvious, but he's not allowed to say so directly.

As the guard steps back on board, a handful of optimistic souls follow him. Some are railway buffs and know exactly what they're doing. The 10:02 to Wandsworth Road, how uniquely exciting. Others drift on because they don't know any better, and it's a train, and it's bound to be going their way isn't it? Damn, thinks the guard, my ghost train has passengers. But not many. According to the scrolling display above the half-empty carriage, "The next station is Wandsworth Road". This too is a blatant lie, as we are about to discover.

The train soon pulls into West Brompton station (where the next train indicator says "Passing service. Please stand back behind the yellow line") and stops. The doors open, and one passenger nips out to catch the District line train pulling in alongside. He clearly knew what he was doing. The guard acts swiftly to stop anybody else climbing aboard. "Ladies and gentlemen, please listen carefully. This train is for Imperial Wharf and Wandsworth Road only. If you haven't heard the destination you require, you're on the wrong train." Nobody moves. Three Japanese tourists with suitcases walk aboard, and we're off again.

The train pauses again at Imperial Wharf, which is the second station the scrolling display hasn't suggested we'd stop at. The three Japanese tourists alight, which is fortunate for them because they'd not want to go where we're heading next. Our train is about to use not one but two curves of track that no other daily service touches, and all to keep those two curves of track officially open. Ssh, don't tell anybody.

Once across the Thames we take the left fork, then another left fork, then right at Latchmere No 3 Junction, along the line that doesn't go to Clapham or Waterloo. Instead we dip beneath the mainline, negotiating our way through a maze of twisting tracks past a variety of warehouses and a wall of buddleia. This is no scenic rail tour, at least not yet, but the view out of the window is a rare sight. Beneath the line from Victoria, then beneath it again, this is one convoluted curve we're following.

Past Nero Roasting, where your coffee comes from, past Video Europe and past Westminster Transfer. A series of carriages rumble past in the near distance, at all levels, on all sides. We pause on the viaduct for five minutes to let all the proper train services go by, affording a lengthy view of the adjacent factory roof. That's Battersea Power Station over there, and Queenstown Road bus garage down below, and Stewart's Lane train depot we've crossed... and I have this entire carriage all to myself.

Come the end of this year there'll be proper trains on this particular bend, once the Overground overtakes the South London Line. They'll come this way to reach Clapham Junction, taking a subtly different route through this railway version of Spaghetti Junction. For now, however, there's just one forgotten train a day in each direction, and the driver's not rushing. At last the signal changes and the train moves forward onto the main track. A disembodied voice chimes "We are now approaching Wandsworth Road", which is the first scrap of truth we've heard out of her.

Our terminating station is a short distance ahead, where this peculiar service terminates on the lonely southbound platform. It's not a lovely place to be abandoned, with the feel of a bypassed halt, and a set of dodgy steps down to the street. The guard pokes his head out to ensure that all his unwanted passengers have properly alighted, then the train swiftly departs, its legal duty complete.

There is, so far as I can tell, no earthly reason why anyone would need to make this particular journey, especially when the single return trip isn't for another six hours. But for anyone who's interested, and can see through the train company's pantomime of lies, the ghost train to Wandsworth Road runs daily until December.

» Ian's made the return journey
» Ian's set of (northbound) photos
» wirewiping's set of (northbound) photos
» Ghost trains, and other rare services, nationwide


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
tired of london
in the aquarium
round the island
christopher fowler
thamesfacingeast
one bus at a time
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
uk general election 2015

read the archive
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv